Answered by Shaykh Gibril F Haddad
One of the most misunderstood statements of Imàm al-Shàfi‘ï is his famous phrase: “When the authenticity of the hadïth is established, that is my madhhab.” The Ulema of the School explained, contrary to the populist approaches of “Salafïs,” that this principle addresses the jurists who are capable of sifting the abrogating and sound hadïths from the abrogated and unsound ones as well as extract the rulings from their collective evidence according to the principles of the Law and those of the Arabic language.  Al-Nawawï said:
What Imàm al-Shàfi‘ï said does not mean that everyone who sees a sahïh hadïth should say “This is themadhhab of al-Shàfi‘ï,” applying the purely external or apparent meaning of his statement. What he said most certainly applies only to such a person as has the rank ofijtihàd in the madhhab. It is a condition for such a person that he be firmly convinced that either Imàm al-Shàfi‘ï was unaware of this hadïth or he was unaware of its authenticity. And this is possible only after having researched all the books of al-Shàfi‘ï and similar other books of the companions of al-Shàfi‘ï, those who took knowledge from him and others similar to them. This is indeed a difficult condition to fulfill. Few are those who measure upto this standard in our times. What we have explained has been made conditional because Imàm al-Shàfi‘ï had abandoned acting purely on the external meaning of many hadïths, which he declared and knew. However, he established proofs for criticism of the hadïth or its abrogation or specific circumstances or interpretation and so forth. Shaykh Abu ‘Amr [Ibn al-Salàh] said: “It is no trivial matter to act according to the apparent meaning of what Imàm al-Shàfi‘ï said. For it is not permissible for every faqïh – let alone a layman(‘àmmï) – to act independently with what he takes to be a proof from the hadïth… Therefore, whoever among the Shàfi‘ïs finds a hadïth that contradicts his School must examine whether he is absolutely accomplished in all the disciplines of ijtihàd, or in that particular topic, or specific question. [If he is,] then he has the right to apply it independently. If he is not, but finds that contravening the hadïth bears too heavily upon him–after having researched it and found no justification for contravening it–then he may apply it if another independent Imàm other than al-Shàfi‘ï applies it. This is a good excuse for him to leave the madhhab of his Imàm in such a case.” 
 See, in particular, Shaykh al-Islàm Taqï al-Dïn al-Subkï’s Ma‘nà Qawl al-Imàm al-Muttalibï Idhà Sahha al-Hadïthu Fahuwa Madhhabï; Ibn al-Salàh’s Adab al-Muftï wa al-Mustaftï; and the first volume of al-Nawawï’sal-Majmþ‘.
 I.e.al-Nawawï’s times, a fortiori ours. Among those who lived in al-Nawawï’s century were al-Fakhr al-Ràzï, Ibn al-Salàh, al-Mundhirï, Ibn ‘Abd al-Salàm, al-Qurtubï, Ibn al-Munayyir, Ibn al-Qattàn, al- Diyà’ al-Maqdisï, Ibn Qudàma, and Ibn Daqïq al-‘Ïd!
 Al-Nawawï,al-Majmþ‘ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab (1:64), citing Ibn al-Salàh’s Fatàwà wa Masà’il (1:54, 1:58-59). Cf. al-Tahànawï, I‘là’ al-Sunan (2:290-291).
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